Obama to Launch Campaign With Ohio, Va. Rallies

Obama to Launch Campaign With Ohio, Va. Rallies

By Alexis Simendinger - April 26, 2012

Ohio and Virginia -- he's back!

President Obama and wife Michelle will officially launch the president's re-election campaign May 5 with rallies in Columbus and Richmond, his campaign announced Wednesday.

In a contest already well-funded and hard-fought, the president's bellwether-state appearances will be akin to opening night after a thousand preview performances.

The president's swing-state campaigning, fundraising and strategizing to defeat Mitt Romney have not been secret, but with the GOP nominee now all but certain and the formality of the Democratic nomination process complete, the campaign wants to light some fireworks under supporters and designate a beginning in a battle that is more than a year old and seemingly never-ending.

In fact, there are 195 days left before Election Day.

“We think this is the right time for us,” campaign manager Jim Messina said on a conference call with reporters. “We’ve been planning on this a while, and we feel like it’s the right time to engage.”

And in an email message to supporters a few hours later, Messina announced Obama’s plans with news of a “backstage-with-Barack” contest designed to vacuum up valuable cell numbers for later outreach. “As part of our mobile community, you'll be sure to hear about events near you, when the president will be in your area, and other campaign news,” Messina wrote. Those who sign up to receive text messages from the campaign could become the two supporters “and their guests” selected to “join the president backstage” at the Ohio rally.

The president has used similar contests to raise campaign funds by offering winners the chance to share casual dinners with him, accompanied at times by Vice President Biden and first lady Michelle. The campaign is running another fundraising raffle for which the prize will be an expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to join Obama and George Clooney at the actor’s home for a high-dollar campaign event May 10.

The announcement about the rallies came a day after Romney -- now winding up a long primary season -- delivered a well-received and triumphal speech in New Hampshire following victories in five primaries. Romney will not be able to lock down sufficient delegates to end the mathematical quest for the nomination until May, but with Rick Santorum’s exit from the race and Newt Gingrich’s retreat to what is effectively a speaking tour, Romney now faces Obama in the general election.

“For the last six years, Mitt Romney has been running for president, and for the better part of the last year, Romney has tried to tear down President Obama with a dishonest, negative campaign that even his Republicans have criticized,” Messina complained. “Well, the monologue is over.”

In Ohio -- a state Obama has been visiting at least monthly -- the president leads Romney by more than five points, according to the most recent RCP polling average. The president captured the state in 2008 and is intent on winning Ohio’s 18 electoral votes in November. No Democrat has lost the Buckeye State and gone on to win the presidency since John F. Kennedy was defeated there by Richard Nixon in 1960.

In Virginia with its 13 electoral votes, Obama is attempting to re-create the victory he achieved four years ago, which mirrored his success nationwide. He defeated John McCain in the Old Dominion by a 53-46 percent margin, becoming the first Democrat to win there since Lyndon Johnson did it in 1964. The president and Romney are now neck and neck in the state, according to the most recent RCP polling average.

Obama and the first lady will make appearances at Ohio State and Virginia Commonwealth universities, where the president will frame the contest as a choice between what his campaign is calling Romney’s “back to the future” policy prescriptions, and his own ideas for a second term. Obama has been arguing that his economic agenda is pegged to fairness for the middle class; experience and data demonstrating positive results; and an understanding of people’s everyday struggles.

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Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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